Indian Army officer in police custody for Malegaon bombing


Nashik/New Delhi : An Indian Army officer was arrested for his suspected involvement in the Sep 29 bomb blast in Maharashtra’s Malegaon town which killed five people and was blamed on a Hindu militant group. This is the first case of a serving military officer being taken into police custody for terrorism related activities.

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A court in Nashik Wednesday allowed the police to interrogate Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit till Nov 15 to facilitate investigations in the bombing.

Mumbai police’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS) arrested Purohit late Tuesday, said a defence official in Delhi, who pleaded anonymity because his service rules do not allow him to speak to the media on record.

The accused army officer, who has served in the military engineering department, is said to be a founding member of the Abhinav Bharat, a radical Hindu right-wing group blamed for the Malegaon blasts.

The police suspect that Purohit helped bomb blast accused Sadhvi (Hindu missionary) Pragya Thakur, retired army Major Ramesh Upadhyaya and his associate Sharad Kulkarni in procuring explosives used in the blast. The three are already in police custody.

He helped other accused in the case to procure and use RDX, special public prosecutor Ajay Misar told judge K.D. Boche seeking Purohit’s custody.

The army officer’s name emerged from the interrogation of prime accused Thakur’s associates Shyam Bhavarlal Sahu and Shiv Narain Singh.

The army officer was picked from Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh last week where he was posted in the army’s education wing. Police believe that he has met Abhinav Bharat activists several times during his earlier posting in army’s Deolali camp.

Mumbai Police officers questioned Purohit for six days in the presence of an army official before placing him under arrest.

The ATS is said to be in possession of transcripts of a few telephonic conversations and SMSes between the retired and the serving army officer regarding the blast.

Purohit is also accused of having attended a meeting with the alleged conspirators at the Nashik Bhonsala Military School Sep 16.

The ATS is examining the role of another suspect, Ashish Rahilkar, who is alleged to have arranged funds for the Malegaon terror act and his two friends Rajesh Dhawde, a counterfeit arms dealer and Jagdish Mhatre from whom some imported arms were recovered.

While the three have not yet been arrested, the police is likely to produce before the court Kailash Solanki, a domestic help of another suspect Ram Narain Singh.

Solanki has narrated the gist of a crucial telephonic communication between Ram Narain Singh and Sadhvi Pragya.

Besides expressing dismay over the “small” number of casualties in the Malegaon blast, the Sadhvi is believed to have obtained tips from Ram on how she should field the ATS queries regarding her motorcycle in which the explosive material was placed.